Red-Light Cameras: For Revenue or Safety?

Conflicting opinions have arisen over the use of red-light cameras. But, new evidence may finally put an end to arguments over whether they actually improve safety, or are only effective in increasing revenues.

Last year, both Los Angeles and Houston shut off their red-light cameras. Still, hundreds of other U.S. cities use them, citing their supposed ability to curb traffic collisions. Until now, the data supporting the cameras' ability to alter driver behavior to improve safety was murky. However, The Atlantic Cities's Eric Jaffe reports on some new evidence.

Researchers studied eight intersections in Virginia. Although they observed a decrease in the number of vehicles entering the intersections on red when cameras were present, and turned on, "What intrigued (and unsettled) the researchers was how quickly drivers reverted to red-light running form," notes Jaffe. "In the immediately aftermath of the law's expiration, the risk of someone running a red light at an intersection was three times higher than it had been when cameras were on."

Full Story: Compelling Evidence That Red-Light Cameras Do Make Roads Safer



Study is garbage. Yes, it is all about the revenue.

Red light cameras represent a very expensive tax on residents for supposedly safer roads. Our roads are already some of the safest in the world and we can't afford the cameras. Pay down the national debt instead.

"Supposedly Safer Roads"?

You apparently didn't read the article or its title, "Compelling Evidence That Red-Light Cameras Do Make Roads Safer."

Charles Siegel

Charles Siegel

I read it but that doesn't mean I agree with the conclusion. This isn't the first, only, or last study on red light cameras and safety. If you want to take the study at face value so be it.


If you knew of other studies, you should have mentioned them in your initial comment. You just make yourself look inept when you make a comment that ignores the content and even the title of the article you are commenting on.

Charles Siegel

Get educated

Feel-good links.

I'm not sure why you need to believe that all these links connect to studies on the safety of intersections after the installation of red light cameras (the topic of this post).

But hey - whaddevah makes you feel better, I guess. (And you clearly didn't read the SFGate piece, which clearly stated intersection safety increased after their installation in Newark).

You may also find at these links that the residents' property tax usually doesn't pay for the installation of the cameras, so their neither their installation nor existence is a tax. Paying for running a red light is a fine. Not a tax. A violation is a fine. A violation is not a tax. Not tax, fine. No tax. Tax no. Fine yes.




Meaningless Links

You are right. I asked for studies refuting this one that says redlight cameras make streets safer. He replied with these meaningless links: says the study is inconclusive: “it's also unclear if the cameras are making Tallahassee's roadways any safer.” No data at all about whether redlight cameras increase safety Cites a study saying that redlight cameras reduced accidents in Fremont undocumented claims, with no mention of any study they are based on.

He links one study that shows redlight cameras increase safety, none that refute the point.

Charles Siegel

Not hot links.

Speaking of get educated, you can tell who has done research in college and who has not. But it has entertainment value, nonetheless.




As I had said, the study mentioned in the article wasn't the first, only, or last study. You guys (Charles, in particular) wanted to know of other studies and I graciously provided links to articles discussing more studies. I thought you would be appreciative of the help. As the saying goes, "some people you can never please".

The links I provided are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many others that can be accessed online. Since you guys are on this site, I assumed you possessed the ability to search online for your own studies and I shouldn't need to guide your research. However, if you are new to searching for information on the world wide web, type in into your address bar (at the top) and search key words "red light cameras" and "studies". You will find all kinds of information (pro and cons). Adding other key words like "safety" or "cost" can provide different results (even more articles).

It sounds like you both are already convinced that red light cameras are the way to go despite lower cost alternatives and a lack of clear and convincing data. You are not alone. There are many public officials, all over this great nation, who overlook the facts in order to create another stream of revenue to feed the bureacracy.

For me, I've said all there is to say regarding this topic. Your welcome to provide the last word if you wish. If you are still not satisfied or feel the need to engage in more debate, there are forums (like this one) included in many of the links I sent you. Best of luck in your research.

The Studies Point One Way

There is clear and convincing data. The studies I have seen confirm that red-light cameras improve safety - including one study mentioned in one of the articles in your list of links.

If you know of any study that shows otherwise, you can tell us about it.

I assumed you possessed the ability to search online for your own studies and I didn't need to guide your research. However, since you apparently don't understand how to find information on the world wide web, let me give you instructions.

1. First, you go to and search key words "red light cameras" and "studies".

2. Then you actually read the articles and see if any of them supports your position.

Charles Siegel

Need for studies.

Charles, those suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect will assert anything that makes them feel better. Reading actual studies may contradict their worldview and thus their self-identity.




I should add one more step to the list above:

3. Then, if you find any hard data that supports your position, you post a link to that data. For example, you would say something like, "A study done in such-and-such place showed that adding red-light cameras did not improve safety. See the study at this link:"

If you actually post hard data supporting your point of view, you might persuade other people. But I doubt that you can find that data, no matter how long you search.

Charles Siegel

Seeing Red Light.

Red light cameras represent a very expensive tax on residents for supposedly safer roads.

*eye roll*

Calm down, cowboy. The only...erm..."tax" on "residents" is the fee to red-light runners. Your home, purchase, air, property, or car isn't "taxed" chuckle if you don't run a red light.

The reality-based community knows the number of serious accidents falls when these cameras run. If you want to equate fender-benders with t-bone accidents, that's your need.



Red Light Cameras = a Tax

Wow, does a different perspective always require a personal dig? The "reality based community" knows, huh? *chuckle*

To tax (from the Latin taxo; "I estimate") is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Red light cameras sound a lot like a tax to me.

“Reality” is red-light cameras have become popular because they bring in millions of tax dollars to local governments without any effort of the government and all backed by police power. It is undeniable that the fees are "taxing" to the residents in each local community and when aggregated, yes this TAX lowers the purchasing power of the community by millions of dollars. I would rather that money be spent in more productive ways like paying down the national debt.

Instead of using our police POWER just because we have it, perhaps a more humble approach should be made. After all, I would guess that most people voluntarily comply with traffic laws because they are good, law abiding citizens. I, personally, hate the thought that government is going to financially hammer a person each time a mistake is made. We hire police officers to enforce traffic laws and to use discretion on whether a fine needs to be assessed. That is the American way.

So again, it comes back to what benefit are we giving away our hard earned money and subjecting ourselves to incrimination? Safety, right? Despite this recent study, there is still little evidence that shows a correlation between accident avoidance and the cameras. You can design all the studies you want, the fact is that the people who run a red light and T-bone another driver tend to be either drunk or distracted in which case a red light camera will have done nothing to prevent the accident. The fancy cameras may get a picture of smashed cars though. Dont believe me? Well, how many fines are issued when no accident occurred? The "reality" is millions and millions of fines are issued without any accident occurring. You say, “How is this possible?” It is because traffic lights are timed so that cars can safely clear the intersection without causing accidents. If we all agree that we need public policy intervention to make roads even SAFER than they already are, increase the signal times between red and green lights! It will accomplish the same goal at a fraction of the cost and completely avoid the risk that an innocent person is penalized. Just because government has the POWER to hammer people who make a mistake doesn’t mean that it makes good public policy.

Last point that is often not considered… Red light cameras lower quality of life. Why do I say this? I say this because I believe more people would AVOID living in a community because of the cameras rather than choose to live in a community because of the cameras. Again, I believe most people find standard traffic signals to provide an adequate level of safety. If local governments want to forge ahead with more taxation through red light camera installation then so be it. I would just say thank god the rest of us have freedom of choice in where we live.

A Tax On Law Breakers

Currently, local governments get most of their revenue by taxing harmless activities, such as property ownership and retail sales.

They would do better to tax harmful activities, such as running red lights, which endangers the safety of other people.

The motto should be "tax the bads, not the goods."

I think most people would choose to live in a community with lower property taxes and with higher taxes on public nuisances and threats to public safety. Thank goodness people have the choice to live in safer communities, rather than communities filled with speeders and red-light runners.

Charles Siegel

Lower Taxes

We agree, people want to live in a community with lower taxes. Not sure about the higher taxes part but Cheers! Its Friday.

Reds Under Beds.

This was your statement:

Red light cameras represent a very expensive tax on residents for supposedly safer roads.

Red light cameras are not paid for by residents. It is not a property tax. It is a fee to people caught running red lights. If you do not want the fee, do not run a red light.

All the word salad in the world isn't going to change that fact.

If you want to tell yourself that red light cameras are bad, great. If you need to tell yourself they are a tax, be my guest. If you need to pretend that it is not true to state often they increase intersection safety, whatever gets you thru the day.

But folk can't assert they are a tax on residents and expect the reality-based community to believe it.



Red light cameras are not paid for by residents?

If red light cameras are not paid for by residents, who do you suppose live in these towns and pays the fees?

And yes a fee to the government is considered a tax.

I do believe we each get to have our own opinion on the matter. Mine is as stated. Simple as that. If everyone agreed with you that they improve safety then there would be no debate about it. What you hold to be undeniable has been studied over and over with different results. To suggest you are the only one living in "reality" is ... well...

Catch Phrases Rather than Reasoning

Dano, As we both know, just mentioning the word "tax" is enough to stir up emotional opposition that prevents reasoning among the know-nothing right wing.

The blind opposition to all taxes prevents them from thinking about:

-- whether the red-light camera is a tax or a fee, as you say.

-- what is the best way of raising revenue? Is it best to tax harmless activities, such as owning property, or is it best to charges taxes and fees on harmful activities, such as running red lights, as I say.

Carry TMinch's idea that "people want to live in a community with lower taxes" to its logical conclusion, and you have communities without money to pay for police protection, fire protection, or schools - communities where no one would actually want to live.

This is why it is dumb to be blindly opposed to taxes - so blindly opposed that you actually think it is an argument against red light cameras to say they are a tax.

Charles Siegel


I agree, Charles, that taxes make some ideologies koo-koo. I also find that the red-light camera issue shuts down the the thinking of some as well.

Red Light Camera Derangement Syndrome, I guess.



Snapped a photo AFTER accident

May 5, 2013|By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel
When a pedestrian cheated death in Fort Lauderdale, his close call with a horrific two-car crash was captured by a red-light camera for all to see."
WHAT??? You mean the camera didn't prevent the accident? How could this be? (Sarcasm) Red light cameras don't prevent accidents, they are a revenue generator.

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